I took a call this morning from a client with a moral dilemma and wanted some help on determining what they should do.

They are busy growing their business and understand that to do so it will be important to forge good relationships with others through whom they can collaborate. And as such are forming alliances with both influencers, introducers, and affiliates with whom collectively can help and support each other to reach heights they perhaps perceived to be otherwise unachievable.

However, on approaching one such alliance, with whom could have a major impact on the speed and advancement of the business and its objectives, they have encountered a problem. It appears on closer examination they have begun to introduce a series of conditions to which my client needs to adhere to if they are to work together, and some of these are incongruent with what and how they currently operate.

On the one hand, this alliance could have significant impact on the direction they then take, and the speed of growth they might expect to achieve as a result.

On the other, they are beginning to dictate the terms to which the business operates to satisfy their aims and objectives.

I acknowledge this could present a fork in the road, but for me it reminds me of two stories within my own past and the decisions I made:

For 12+ years, I served as a Combat Medic within the British Army.  Within our Regiment, we worked in Squadrons, and within each squadron was broken down into sections.  ‘Scotty’ and Frank’ was not medics at all. But both worked as Driver/Radio Operators assigned to the medical regiment. Both knew of each other, but neither were directly in my section and so we knew of each other as fellow colleagues at work. They mixed with their friends, I mixed with mine.

However, in 2000 all that quickly changed.

Being admitted to hospital, I was no longer a Combat Medic but a patient. I was no longer helping others but needing their help. In one moment, I’d gone from being an asset to be a liability! And whilst I was never centre of attention within the Section, Squadron or Regiment, I had liked to think I was ‘one of the boys’ and that the Regiment ‘had my back’. (Just as for years, I had willingly put my life on the line to have theirs).

They often say it takes a crisis to determine who your friends are. And whilst I remain confident that on the battlefield we worked exceptionally well as a team, working together, pulling together to ensure we achieved. The moment I was no longer ‘pulling together’ the mass majority of the ‘team’ continued to march forward, mission focused and goal centred, and I quickly got left behind.

I can count on two hands those who visited me in hospital. Took the 3Hr drive EACH WAY in their own time to come and check in, see how I was, whether I needed anything, and kept me up to date with what was happening outside those 4 walls. Interestingly though, of those who visited, there were more NON medic cap badges than medics!

I will NEVER forget the choices, ‘Scotty, Frank, Keith, Whiskey’ made in stepping up, stepping out and making a choice to be there when it mattered most, and not just when the going was good! A debt, I’m advised was never there, and yet I consider unpaid to this day.

The other story is also from my military days, but this was during an operational tour.

Rank is a BIG thing in the military. A ‘company’ built on an exceptional hierarchical basis, and so the opportunity to progress is key to many decision-making processes for the majority of soldiers throughout their career.

The NEED to be SEEN doing the right thing, sadly often overpowered the intention to do the right thing. What I mean by this is simply some people continually did the right thing for the wrong reasons, where as far fewer did for the right reasons for the wrong thing!

On this occasion, it was a couple of weeks prior to Christmas. Many of the soldiers received gifts mailed to them from loved ones back home, and whist many were practical gifts, others chose to fully embrace the ‘Christmas’ theme and send Christmas presents! (Even though you carry all you have on your back, and so often highly impractical)

One soldier (who shall remain nameless) determined rather than these being wasted or damaged, it might be a nice idea to gift them to locals within the village we had set up camp within, in a bid to build closer relations with the locals and build on the ‘Hearts and minds’ campaign of us being there to help, support, liberate rather than as oppressors.

He was an influential soldier and soon as many others donating items they were happy to ‘gift’ to this cause. So much so that it was decided that rather than do it indiscriminately, it would be a more determined campaign of giving and so a ‘structure’ soon formed as to what, where, who.

Doing the right thing, and for the right reasons?

That was, until hours AFTER the giving, it became known to the TV press on tour, who were keen to come and learn more of the story and share it both across the theatre of operation and back home. However, as this had already taken place, there was limited ‘NEWS’ value! And so, the soldier determined it would be best, to ‘recover’ some of the gifts, only to ‘give again’ once the press were present!

As I turn my attention back to my client, and his moral dilemma, I am also reminded of the most inspiring quote from Viktor Frankl a concentration camp survivor of the World War

You can take away my access to food and water, strip me of my clothes and every other human decency. But you will never strip me of my attitude, for that I get to choose

It was the late, great Jim Rohan who said “You are the sum of the 5 people you surround yourself with the most” and with this in mind, it is always necessary and relevant to consider who you are taking influence from. Far better to ‘upgrade’ your influencers that you are not the one with whom all others take the most without you gaining also.

In Bannatynes biography, he claimed:

Until 38 I was a professional bum. By the time I was 40 I was a millionaire. All because I changed those I hung around with, from being the smartest in the room, to being in a room with some exceptionally smart people.”

However, I have seen too many businesses fail overnight, by chasing the A grade clients, at the expense of all the “B’s, C’s, and D’s” along the way! It is just as important to remember where we have come from, as to know where we are going.

I worked with a client throughout 2017/8 with whom spent a lot of money with us. They were already buying our TOP service, and even then were asking for numerous extra’s to be added on a regular basis! Almost 10 months into the annual contract, I discovered something they had done as a business. A decision I had no prior knowledge of, and which on learning went so far against EVERYTHING that we stand for, that I contacted them to advise with immediate notice we would be cancelling the contract.

My Finance manager wouldn’t speak to me for 3 days, as in that one decision, we had virtually wiped the companies’ entire profit for the year! And yet, within 6 weeks we had replaced that income from 3 new clients, ALL of whom stated:

“We’ve been wanting to work with you for a while, and yet whilst you were working with X, felt it wasn’t aligned with what you claim to be (The Ethical Coaching Company) and so have held off to see how that panned out”

The decisions we make are not just about where we are right now. But also influenced by all we have done to get us here, and all we are yet to do along our journey. Brand is not just a pretty logo, but your vision, your values, your ethics, morals, decision making processes. It is, in essence, who WE and our business is.

A friend in need is a friend in deed – so choose wisely and with confidence, as we are laying the foundations for all that is to come!

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